Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 30, 2019)
After the success of 1931’s seminal Frankenstein, Boris Karloff played the creature only two more times. Karloff returned to this role for 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein and 1939’s Son of Frankenstein.
This doesn’t mean Karloff avoided the character entirely, as he appeared in various Frankenstein efforts via different parts. With 1958’s Frankenstein 1970, Karloff arrives as the creature’s creator.
Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Karloff) agrees to let a crew use his castle for a TV movie about the family legend. This displeases the Baron, but he needs the cash to fund his experiments.
The Baron plans to use the money to get a nuclear reactor to renew the clan’s old monster-making ways. The Baron still needs body parts, so he settles on a convenient source: the film crew.
In the annals of “Perplexing Movie Titles”, Frankenstein 1970 deserves mention. Why did the filmmakers give it that name?
I have no idea, as we get only the most minor indications the story takes place anywhere but the “here and now” of 1958. I guess the producers though it sounded “futuristic”, but it makes little actual sense, as the only allusions to 1970 remain essentially hidden.
If the end result succeeded, I’d focus less on the movie’s awkward title. Alas, 1970 wastes Karloff’s return to the legend with a slow, dull affair.
1970 actually starts pretty well, as it opens with a clever “fake-out” sequence. We watch as a monster terrorizes a pretty young woman – and then learn it’s all part of a movie shoot.
Sure, we’ve seen that kind of tease many times over the last 60 years, but it feels clever for a movie from 1958. I’ll admit it caught me by surprise.
The first time, that is, as 1970 doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. It attempts the same kind of fake-out later in the tale, and that scene proves substantially less effective.
I suspect the filmmakers resorted to a reprise of the gimmick out of creative desperation. Even at a mere 83 minutes, 1970 proves short on story and inspiration.
A chatty affair, 1970 often feels like little more than a collection of soliloquies by the Baron. We get endless rants from our lead, none of which feel especially interesting.
So heavily does the film focus on the Baron and his musings, 1970 never does much to develop the other characters. You’ll be lucky to remember any of their names, as the movie uses them as potential victims more than actual personalities.
This becomes Karloff’s project to carry or lose, and unfortunately, he fumbles. Karloff hams up a storm and leaves the impression that he lacks much creative investment in the film.
Can I blame him? Not really, as the thin plot and characters don’t seem worthy of his talents. Still, it seems like a shame that Karloff’s return to Frankenstein features him in such a silly performance.
1970 takes forever to reveal the creature, as we don’t see the monster until about two-thirds of the way into the film. Even then, the cheap-o production keeps him wrapped in bandages, all in an obvious attempt to save money.
Would anyone remember Frankenstein 1970 without Karloff’s presence? I seriously doubt it, as only Boris gives the flick any form of notoriety, and even the great Karloff can’t rescue this stinker.